My main talk at ICEHL 22 at Sheffield this year concerned the sounds of Orrm's dialect and how they are revealed by his unique spelling system. This is a work in progress paper, as it reports on two quite well-developed features of a larger piece of research which is still incomplete.

Orrm spoke a variety of English from the East Midlands, probably somewhere around Peterborough: Malcom Parkes isolated him to Bourne, in Lincolnshire. This part of the country had extensive viking settlements and there is a huge influence of Old Norse in Orrm's vocabulary.

An important part of Orrm's huge project, of which we have perhaps an eighth remaining to consult today, was the development of a complete orthography. He wanted to write his text, not only so that any other priest from his area could read it aloud, but also so that any other speaker of English would pronounce it in the same way. His system is so consistent that we can assume that all of his spelling choices are meaningful. There were a lot of sound changes between Old English and the early Middle English that Orrm spoke. Most of them are well-understood, but some are obscure, either because the only occur in a few words, or because the distinction was not discovered until recently. There were several sounds represented in Old English by <g>, for which Orrm had at least five letters or combinations of letters, some of which overlapped with sounds that would have been spelled with <h> in Old English. These are difficult to render in modern print and impossible on a webpage. Nevertheless, I've made some progress with a sequence <hhȝh> (in which <ȝh> represents a <ȝ> with a tiny <h> on top). The etymology of one word with this sequence remains difficult to trace, but I'll keep working on it.

 I also talked about a few unusual spellings with <sk> and <sc>. I think I've shown that the choice between <sk> and <sc>, and indeed <k> and <c> depends on the shape of the letter that follows. A further single word is still unexplained.



Consonant Phonology Presentation (3308 Kb)